Jessica Clark Louisos: Support governor’s budget to take advantage of federal funds

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This commentary is by Jessica Clark Louisos of South Burlington, a registered professional engineer who regularly works on Vermont’s infrastructure. She is past president of the Vermont section of American Society of Civil Engineers and currently is chair of the Infrastructure Report Card.

Funding from the federal infrastructure law is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for communities to improve infrastructure systems we depend on every day. 

That is why it is critical lawmakers approve the $150 million in federal match funding in the governor’s fiscal year 2024 budget request. This plan ensures Vermont is able to take full advantage of federal funding opportunities. This money would be used to support drinking water and wastewater systems, support service line replacement projects, and ensure our water remains clean and safe. 

The Agency of Transportation has identified 223 projects across the state that will be supported by the matching funds. 

There is a long lead time for communities to prepare projects, so it is critical for community leaders to know that matching funds will be available when projects are ready. Make Vermont’s commitment clear so that communities have the time to prepare for these large, important projects. Any project delayed now would almost certainly cost more later, so acting now is the most fiscally responsible path.

The Vermont section of the American Society of Civil Engineers released the 2023 Report Card for Vermont’s Infrastructure last month, with nine categories of infrastructure receiving an overall grade of C, the same grade issued in the state’s 2019 report card. 

That means Vermont’s infrastructure is in mediocre condition and requires attention. This report underscores the challenges and successes of Vermont’s infrastructure. Aging assets, a largely rural population, and extreme weather events present challenges to Vermont’s infrastructure. The report highlights the age of Vermont’s infrastructure and the investment needed to improve and maintain systems that are crucial to everyone’s health and safety.

Infrastructure investment means more jobs, safer communities, and more money in taxpayers’ wallets. Vermont families and businesses cannot afford to underinvest in the systems that get us to and from work, send water directly to our faucets, and keep the lights on. We all pay a hidden tax for faulty infrastructure — the more we invest, the less it costs us in the long run. The American Society of Civil Engineers Failure to Act report estimates each American household is losing $3,300 per year due to infrastructure inefficiencies — that equates to an average car payment each month. We can ease the burden on families and businesses by investing in these critical structures.

While the current federal infrastructure funding is providing a temporary boost in spending and funding, Vermont needs to take full advantage of every dollar by providing matching funding and following through with project implementation. 

State funding for many key infrastructure programs is not sufficient or sustainable for the future. Infrastructure systems need continuous investment to provide safe, reliable services that we all need.

For more specifics on infrastructure needs in Vermont, view the report card and all nine categories here.

Read the story on VTDigger here: Jessica Clark Louisos: Support governor’s budget to take advantage of federal funds.

As Reported by VTDigger